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December 01st 2007 print

Stephen Edgar

The Double

THE DOUBLE

The witness Jones attests by affidavit
That you were present at the seminar
All of the day in question.
He asked you for your number and you gave it.
He’s quoted from your repartee
At lunch and, when you broke at three,
He came to collect a pamphlet from your car—
And this at your suggestion.

Impossible: by one I was miles away,
Counting the wind-pale grasses by a beach,
And watched in a lagoon,
Whose surface told the fortune of the day,
Clouds build their drowning Samarkand.
My hair is stiff with salt, the sand
Is in my clothes. I walked almost the reach
Of that vast afternoon.

Your colleagues Smith and Brown have sworn on oath
That the next morning your were in by eight
And seated at your desk.
Both spoke to you and you replied to both.
Your supervisor called you for
An interview and at his door
You turned to them to imitate his gait
With an ad hoc burlesque.

Not that door. For the one I opened led
To no such chamber, but to a museum
Of lost antiquities.
And there among the gold flakes of the dead
Where time was almost at an end
It seemed that I might comprehend
The cryptic voices in the hypogeum.
All that was overseas.

Then surely you will not deny your wife?
Who knows you with more intimate conviction?
You’re the soliloquy
Her lips recite. She has you to the life.
Her cradling hands can hold by heart
Each of your shoulderblades and chart
Unseen your movements without contradiction.
That night were you not he?

How can I contradict my own recital
In the mouth of one by whom I am composed?
Her sleep called me by name,
But in it I awoke to another title
And saw the falling moon assign
Another’s flesh and blood to mine.
I turned the handle of the door he’d closed
And left the way he came.

Past silhouetted palisades of coast,
Between the night’s illuminated sky
And the sea in which it shone,
I skimmed the surface, weightless as a ghost,
While shadowed on the sandy bed
Beneath my feet the fishes sped
And leapt the moon-clear fathoms on which I
Was effortlessly drawn

For miles that knew no dawn.

Stephen Edgar